Chilled somen noodle served with grated ginger, scallion and a delicious dipping sauce called Tsuyu. This is a perfect Japanese noodle recipe for hot summer days.
When the weather is getting warmer and you start losing your appetite, what do you usually end up eating? Growing up in Asia, summers were often brutally hot. To beat the heat, my favorite go-to dishes on these hot summer days are Japanese cold noodles dishes such as somen and soba. As you slurp the slippery Cold Somen Noodles dipped in delicious tsuyu, you feel your body starting to cool in the summer heat.
What is Somen Noodles?
Sōmen (素麺,そうめん) are white Japanese noodles made of wheat flour and they are very thin, about 1 mm in diameter. The dough is stretched with the help of vegetable oil to make very thin strips and then air dried. You can read more about the somen making process here.
How do I cook somen noodles?
Because of its thinness, somen noodles often take less than 3-4 minutes to cook in boiling water. While cooking, you want to stir the noodles with chopsticks to prevent sticking. Once cooked, drain the noodles in a colander immediately and use you hands to gently rinse the noodles under cold running water. This helps to remove the excess starch from the noodles.
Somen are usually served cold with a dipping sauce called Tsuyu (つゆ). The dipping sauce is the same Japanese dashi-based broth used in hot soup, but more concentrated in flavor. Flavored with scallions and ginger, the sauce is light yet incredibly aromatic. You can also add shiso leaf or myoga if you can find them at Japanese grocery stores.
To make it more filling, you can definitely bulk up the noodles by tossing in other ingredients such as shredded egg crepes (see How to Make Kinshi Tamago), julienned cucumbers or ham. I love my somen noodles just as it is. In my humble opinion, there is nothing more comforting and satisfying than enjoying the long strands of chilled slippery somen noodles with the sweet savory sauce on its own. It is truly one of the simple dishes that highlights the uniqueness of somen noodles.
Jin, my friend from middle school, sent me these packages of somen noodles from Shodo Island where he currently lives. The pink somen noodles are made of Ume (梅), Japanese plum. Tenobe (手延) Somen from Shodo Island has made the region famous as one of Japan’s top three producers of somen noodles. These somen noodles are hard to get overseas, but my favorite Ibonoito brand is available in Japanese grocery stores and I highly recommend this brand.
Enjoy the cold somen noodles as a light meal or afternoon snack!
* We usually decorate the noodles with Japanese maple leaves, but I couldn’t find them so I use maple leaves instead.
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- 4 bundles dried somen noodles
- [Optional] Traditional Japanese restaurants tie up the noodles to enhance the appearance of the somen and this is how you do it. Tie the edge of somen noodles with cooking twine. This way noodles will stay in one direction while cooking. I normally skip this step for home use.
- Boil water in a large pot. When boiling, remove the wrapper.
- Add the somen noodles in the boiling water (do not add salt!). Stir noodles with chopsticks so they don’t stick to each other. Cook according to the package instructions. If necessary, add a little bit of cold water in the pot to prevent overflowing.
- Drain somen in a colander and wash the noodles with hands under running water.
- Once noodles are cold, find the knotted parts of somen noodles and pick them up. Cut off the edge and discard. Hold each bundle gently and arrange it nicely on a serving plate. Somen can be served with ice to keep cool.
- Cut the scallion finely and grate the ginger. Put them in small dishes. Put mentsuyu in small bowls and add cold (iced) water to dilute.
- Put a small portion of scallion and ginger in the dipping sauce and dip the somen noodles to eat. Enjoy!
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Noodles will be stuck so you may want to loosen up in cold water before serving.